W - HealthcareThe Children's Health Fair last spring. Sharon Surrency started igniting For Health Care Justice to advocate access to affordable care.

ALACHUA COUNTY – Weighing in at over 900 pages long, the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, can be confusing, leaving many people to not know what the changes can mean for them.

Some citizens in Hawthorne and Waldo are trying to help their community make a smooth transition into the activation of the bill.

Sharon Surrency and Mary Jackson took it upon themselves to help their neighbors ensure they had a better understanding of the new law. They did so by forming a ministry called Igniting For Health Care Justice.

“There are too many people out there that are either uninsured, or just underinsured,” Surrency said. “And to me, that’s unacceptable.”

The ministry group hosted a workshop event on Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26 to help bring some of the issues with healthcare to light.

“Our purpose is to increase awareness and educate people about their healthcare, as well as to advocate that it should be affordable, accessible, accountable and inclusive,” Surrency said.

The event was county-wide and free for anyone to attend. It was sponsored by the United Methodist Church, which received a grant from the General Board of Church and Society.

There was a candlelight vigil on Oct. 25 at Northside Park in Gainesville, followed by an informational workshop the next day at the Senior Services Center on Northwest 34th Street in Gainesville.

The majority of the people who attended were older, but there but there were other age groups.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the middle-aged people that came for both days,” Surrency said.

“I think that people really appreciated the insight about healthcare reform, as well as the information we had about specific diseases, such as diabetes and cancer,” Surrency said.

Around 72 people in total attended the event, which featured physicians giving lectures, as well as nutrition and safety exhibits.

One of the aims of the new Affordable Care Act is to lower the rate of uninsured Americans along with increasing the quality and affordability of health care.

Surrency and Jackson said they feel these are important elements to improving the current system. Whether the bill will have its desired impact is yet to be seen, but people need to understand their care, Surrency said.

The idea for the ministry came to Surrency when she visited a training workshop over the summer in Washington D.C. that was sponsored by a Methodist church.

She teamed up with Jackson, and the two began to share information with others.  

“For me, being a nurse, I saw a chance to help others who are limited in their healthcare access,” Surrency said.

“I hope this can be a positive foundation for a future impact as well.”

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ALACHUA – As complaints from Turkey Creek residents in Alachua continue to find their way to local officials, the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) has outlined its plans to address objections to the noise and pollution coming from its biomass plant.

Ever since the biomass plant went online in August, residents of the Turkey Creek neighborhood have been vocal about the noise level and dust pollution coming from the facility. One solution could come in the form of noise dampeners installed near the loud equipment, according to a memo from GREC.

GREC acknowledges the residents are unhappy, said Karen Hyler, administrator of the GREC project.

“We take it seriously,” she said. “We’re going to spend money on a solution that we think is going to significantly reduce it.”

An engineer from the consulting firm Hessler Associates, which specializes in minimizing noise from power plants, visited the facility on two occasions to perform tests.

The engineer, David Hessler, suggested the installation of an acoustically absorptive lining inside the cylindrical stack standing over the plant.

“We believe this is the best solution to reduce sound emissions from the facility in the community,” Hessler wrote in his report.

GREC hopes to have the 6-inch-thick panels installed by December, according to a memo released on Oct. 8.

“Despite being in compliance with the regulations, GREC is nevertheless committed to being a good neighbor,” it read.

Most of the noise comes from the airflow inside the stack, according to the memo. Part of the problem is the low frequency of the noise, which causes it to travel farther due to the geography of the area.

In addition to installing the noise-dampening panels, GREC said it will limit cold-starts of the plant to daytime hours, changing the direction of the vent for the dust collection system to point toward the east and avoiding receiving wood during nighttime and early morning.

At least one resident claimed to hear loud noise at 3 a.m., said Alachua City Commissioner Robert Wilford, who lives in Turkey Creek.  

Alachua’s city commission meetings have been met with dozens of affected residents vocal about their problems with the plant.

The Gainesville Police Department conducted tests in Turkey Creek, but found the volume level to not be a violation of Gainesville’s noise ordinances, where the plant is located.

One Turkey Creek resident has adopted a wait-and-see attitude on the proposed solutions.

“If it does work, hey, that’s great,” said Russ Pisano. “In the meantime, we’re being constantly bombarded by this thing.”

Pisano said he wants the biomass plant shut down until the noise problem is fixed.

“They’re testing it with us as guinea pigs,” he said.

There is a lack of trust on the part of Turkey Creek residents, Pisano said.

“The proof is in the results,” he said. “If this is going to be a solution, why didn’t they address it before?”

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ALACHUA COUNTY – Alachua County is going green and saving the taxpayers' money in the process.

The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department's Hazardous Waste Collection program issued special recycling drums to food vendors at the Alachua County Fair, which occurred from Oct. 18 to Oct. 26.

The drums were used to collect vegetable oil waste, which can be used to create biodiesel fuel to power emergency generators and county vehicles.

The program also offers five different collection stations around the county for residents to drop off their vegetable oil waste.

Around 150 gallons of vegetable were collected during the fair, said John Mousa, environmental programs manager with the county's Environmental Protection Department. The program plans to continue expanding by collecting vegetable oil waste at other county-wide events, such as the upcoming City of Gainesville's Downtown Festival and Art Show on Nov. 16 and 17, and at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire on Jan. 25, 26 and 31 to Feb. 2.

“This encourages residents and homeowners from not putting the waste down the sink, which causes sewage problems,” Mousa said.

The program, which started in 2010 with a student project making biodiesel at Oak Hall High School in Gainesville, was expanded when the county received federal and state grants to obtain the right equipment to upscale the process.

The recycled vegetable waste is converted into biodiesel through a machine, and then mixed with methanol, a catalyst and is then burned into petroleum diesel which is used to fuel the county trucks.

The burning of biodiesel is a renewable fuel and is cleaner, with less harmful emission, Mousa said. The petroleum diesel is just as effective as regular diesel, with half the price.

“This is a win-win in terms of what we are doing, its impacts, and what the costs are,” said Chris Bird, director of the Environmental Protection Department in Alachua County.

It is important to know the distinction between biodiesel fuel that is made from raw vegetable oil and waste, Bird said.

“If you use raw product, you take away a food source,” he said.

During irrigation, the production of vegetable oil uses a lot of water, and it is more efficient to produce biodiesel with the recycled waste.

Throughout the past two years, over 700 gallons of waste vegetable oil have been collected at community events by Alachua County for biodiesel production. Because people bring the discarded oil to the county, it doesn't have to spend money picking up or purchasing the main ingredient.

Many local residents in downtown Gainesville are also participating in the recycling, helping to create fuel for the county.

“One lesson learned through this process is to start small," Bird said. "If it is successful build on it, and then expand.”

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HIGH SPRINGS – Residents may soon begin to notice improvements to the city’s playgrounds. New mulch and barriers have been delivered and are just about ready for installation, said City Manager Ed Booth.

The labor needed to install new items at city playgrounds, prepare the water plant for painting, pull weeds and provide general maintenance to the community are being provided by community service personnel.

While the city has a contract for mowing ball fields and city property twice a month, the city manager has had to find creative ways to improve the ball fields and get additional work accomplished to properly maintain city grounds and buildings, Booth said.

“The city just does not have the money in the budget to do everything that needs to be done to maintain our property in a safe condition,” he said.

Booth made an inspection of all of the city’s property when he first joined the staff in late 2012.

“Some of the items I found were scary,” he said. “I had to shut down one playground immediately due to potentially unsafe conditions.” The playground is now up to code, Booth said.

This year’s budget included funds for materials to improve the playgrounds, but not the manpower to do it.

“As I was formulating the budget, I started looking for alternative ways to get the work done,” Booth said. Community service personnel turned out to be the answer for free labor, he said.

The county court system was looking for jobs for those people who worked full-time, but still needed to complete community service hours. Using standby personnel from public works to supervise six to 12 community service workers on Sundays, the city has received the benefit of the extra labor, Booth said.

In another example of how the city is finding cheap or free ways to maintain its property, Booth said he came up with the idea to grow sod on the city’s spray field. As part of Booth’s earlier survey of city-owned property, he realized the city’s ball fields needed to have sod replaced.

Booth located a sod grower and made an arrangement to have sod grown on the spray field by his company in exchange for three acres of free sod for city recreation areas.

“It was a win-win situation for both of us,” he said. “We got the sod we needed, and they got free land and watering for their portion of the sod, which they could then sell.”

Growing sod on a spray field also removes some of the nitrates that build up and would eventually cause the city to have to locate another site, he said.

“Growing sod helps us to use our resources wisely and extend the life of our spray field a few more years,” Booth said. “Everybody benefits from this arrangement.”

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W - Good groundbreaking photoGovernor Rick Scott answers questions from the press after the ground-breaking ceremony. The new facility is expected to be operational in early 2015.

ALACHUA – Riding in a limousine, the governor pulled up to the site in Alachua that promises to add new jobs to the city.

Governor Rick Scott spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 23, for the biotech company Nanotherapeutics’ new research and manufacturing facility, which the company expects to bring 150 jobs to the city of Alachua.

“That’s a big deal anywhere in the state,” Governor Scott said.

The 165,000 square-foot facility, located at 13200 NW Nano Court, is being constructed with money secured by a contract between Nanotherapeutics and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)that was awarded earlier this year.

The contract charges Nanotherapeutics with developing countermeasures to protect against biological terrorism and epidemics, particularly for the military.

Nanotherapetuics got $135 million, and could get up to $358 million over a span of 10 years from the DoD.

In late September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also committed to a contract with Nanotherapeutics to increase the national capacity to develop flu vaccines.

At the ceremony, Governor Scott presented James Dalton, CEO of Nanotherapeutics, with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award.

The state of Florida’s economy has turned around since Scott took office, he said, with the help of companies such as Nanotherapeutics.  

“Florida is experiencing an incredible economic turnaround thanks to our job creators like Nanotherapeutics,” Governor Scott said.

The site of the new facility has historical significance for Alachua, said Mayor Gib Coerper.

It is where the Copeland Sausage plant used to be located. Copeland Sausage employed about 400 workers who lost their jobs when the plant closed down in 1978.

The groundbreaking ceremony is celebrated on the same site that taught Alachua a lesson about the importance of attracting diverse businesses, Coerper said.

Now, Alachua has a wide range of businesses in the bioscience fields, Coerper said, boasting the third highest concentration of bioscience companies in the state.

“We strive to make Alachua business-friendly,” he said. “Today is a great day for your company, and a proud day for the City of Alachua,” he told CEO Dalton.

Nanotherapeutics started in the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator, but quickly grew. It eyed several states as potential hosts for the new facility, including California, Michigan and North Carolina. In the end, it chose to remain in Alachua.

“We are grateful to Nanotherapeutics for wanting to stay,” said Mitch Glaeser, chairman of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.  

The Nanotherapeutics Advanced Development and Manufacturing Center should be operational by March 2015, said CEO James Dalton.

As the speeches finished up, Governor Scott, Mayor Coerper and Dalton thrust their shovels into the ground to complete the ceremony, marking the start of construction on the facility.

The plant will be a huge opportunity for Alachua, said Adam Boukari, assistant city manager, in an earlier interview.

“Nanotherapeutics is going to be a big part of Alachua’s future,” he said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Former High Springs attorney and Circuit Court judge, David A. Glant, died at his home in High Springs surrounded by friends and family on Wednesday, Oct. 23, following a lengthy illness.

A long-time resident of High Springs, Glant announced his early retirement from the bench on Thursday, June 13, at the age of 63. He said at that time he had been suffering from cancer and felt he had become physically unable to meet his own high expectations.

In 1989, Glant set up his law practice in High Springs. He lived in Ft. White for four years and then moved to High Springs in 1994, where he remained in private practice until he was elected as one of 13 judges to the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida in 2002.

During his third year at the University of Florida, he clerked for the Honorable Judge John A. H. Murphree.

“I traveled with him to the six counties he covered,” Glant said in June. “It really gave me a fire to want to do that job.”

He was practicing law in High Springs when the state legislature created a new seat in this district. He ran for it against a couple of other opponents and won the 2002 election. Glant continued to live in High Springs and was eventually also appointed as an administrative judge in the criminal division in 2009.

“I have had two satisfying careers and I did the best I could in both instances,” Glant said after retirement. “I don’t feel I need to accomplish anything else.”

Glant’s wife of 13 years, Casey, remembered how loved her husband was in the community.

“He was an extremely loving and kind person who was always considerate,” she said. “He was a real gentle man with impeccable integrity, which is why I believe he was so well loved and respected.”

Glant had a great sense of humor, Casey said. His writing had quick wit, but never at anybody else’s expense.

“I feel very honored and blessed to have had him as my husband for 13 years,” she said.

Ed Garvin, Glant’s close friend, fellow musician and the best man at his wedding remembers Glant as a person who had faced more tragedy in his life than most people, “but handled it always without bitterness.” David was the same person in tragedy as he was in triumph, he said.

“He was the kind of person you hope your children grow up to be,” Garvin said. “He treated all people with the same consideration and kindness, whether they were important officials or ordinary folks.”

Glant, Garvin and about eight more musicians would get together as a gospel group called WSU, “Whoever Shows Up,” about six or seven times a year and perform at different churches in the area. Glant was the leader and organizer, where he would play his guitar and sing.

Donations were always given back to the church hosting their performance, Casey said.

“We did it out of love,” she said.

Stacy A. Scott, public defender for the Eighth Judicial District, described him as a person of great faith. “He was very kind and had very strong moral beliefs,” she said.

“I enjoyed the time we were able to spend together outside of the courtroom, and I will miss him,” she said.

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W - PumpkinA child loads a pumpkin onto a wagon at the pumpkin patch in Alachua. Thirty percent of the profit from sales helps impoverished families.

ALACHUA - Dave Risi spent the better part of an afternoon walking through the pumpkin patch located right off U.S. Highway 441 in Alachua, just past Hitchcock's. With his wife, he watched his 13-month-old daughter go through the patch and admire the pumpkins.  

“She's having a good time,” he said. As much as she enjoyed the pumpkin patch, though, it has a purpose other than light-hearted fun.  

For several years, the First United Methodist Church of Alachua has organized the pumpkin patch, which features hayrides, games and a hay maze up until Halloween. It sells pumpkins and pumpkin-based treats to raise money to help rebuild homes in the Appalachian Mountains.

Some of the houses the church has helped rebuild in the past were without septic tanks or even floors, said Brett Bultemeier, whose wife is the youth director for the church.

“It's kind of shocking,” he said.

Bobbie Ellis went on one of the church trips to the Appalachians. When she went to deliver food to a family, she was upset by what she saw.

“They have nothing,” she said. “I have never seen somebody so poor.”

Seeing the conditions the family lived in caused her to cry, she said.

The pumpkins are grown by the Navajo people in New Mexico, Bultemeier said. The Navajo set the prices and take 70 percent of the profits, while the other 30 percent goes toward helping the less fortunate, said Anne Gay, a member of the church.

This is the 13th year for the pumpkin patch, but it still seems to be popular.

Over the span of an hour, Bultemeier said he had seen seven or eight whole families come to the patch, which is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. The busiest times are when school buses bring in children during the middle of the day, said one volunteer.

During a Monday evening a parent and her child loaded up pumpkins of all sizes onto a little wagon. The money from the pumpkins is desperately needed to help the less fortunate, Anne Gay said. There are many ways to help, and some are as simple as buying a pumpkin, she said.

"That's why we're here, to share with others," she said.

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